October 18, 2004


With John Howard, you don't need that: just get him on the phone.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, he didn't bother flying in to Camp David for the Bush-Blair photo-op or to the Azores for the Anglo-American-Spanish-Portuguese one. He could have gone, but he didn't feel he had to. After all, he's got a real alliance, not like the Franco-American "alliance", which exists only at summits and ends as soon as Bush and Chirac have got on their respective planes.

The result is that, even though he's hardly ever in the souvenir photo line-up, Howard's a more consequential figure in world affairs these days than Chirac. Indeed, he's a transformative figure. I know this, because my nation has been on the other end of the transformation. I'm Canadian and, for those who remember when the Royal Canadian Navy was once the third largest surface fleet in the world, it's sobering to hear Australia spoken of as the third pillar of the Anglosphere.

Under Howard, Australia is a player while Canada is a global irrelevance. Given geography and the Islamists' ambitions in Indonesia and South Asia, that might be true whoever was in power. But, if this is simply a reflection of regional realities, Howard expresses them better than anyone else.